The UK government is investing £60m ($107.3m AUD) in a fund to research ways of reducing single-use plastics.
The funding, which will join an expected £149 million investment from private companies, will look at methods of cutting supply-chain waste, creating sustainable and recyclable materials, and formulating new business models.
According to Greg Clark, UK business secretary, the investment is part of the biggest R&D boost in the country’s history, and could see new forms of plant-based packaging and plastics become a reality.
“We have put a record level of research and development investment at the heart of our Industrial Strategy – investing to support our best minds and businesses in developing the solutions and industries of tomorrow.
“This government and business co-investment clearly demonstrates that when it comes to cutting plastics pollution there is a shared ambition. This is a unique opportunity for our world-leading businesses and innovators to develop the materials of the future with the potential to transform our economy as well as our environment,” he said.
The UK government has also called for evidence on standards for bio-based and biodegradable plastics, and investment through its Industrial Strategy is already backing plant-based solutions that degrade easily in open environments. Professor Sir Mark Walport, UK research and innovation chief executive, said the new fund is an important step to fighting the “global crisis” of plastic pollution.
“The new investment through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will establish the UK as a leading innovator in smart and sustainable plastic packaging solutions, delivering cleaner growth across the supply chain, with a dramatic reduction in plastic waste entering the environment by 2025,” he said.
A new Smithers Pira report, The Future of Bioplastics for Packaging to 2024, predicts that total demand for bioplastics in packaging is expected to more than double over the next five years, with double digit growth forecast in all regions.